Being Assholes

Not Back To School, reason #1

Being Assholes
It’s that time of year – my social media stream is full of parents and teachers making jokes (?) at the expense of children. Teachers groan about having to return to their jobs. Parents are glad they get a break – finally! We’re all in agreement: caring for children is really exhausting and annoying and teachers should be sainted for having to put up with it!

Yeah. It’s kinda ugly.

Lest you think I’m a humorless scold (um… do you even read here?) let me acknowledge a few truths. First, I think very loving grownups can make jokes like this. Whether they should, well, let’s talk about this.

Second: I don’t deny, everyone needs to blow off some steam. As a parent for over thirteen years, I can attest there is a dark side to the hard work of being a parent. Sometimes we just need to vent. In fact, older entries of this very blog reveal that edge. Go ahead and look, if you like. It’s not pretty, although a lot of people seem to think it’s funny.

I am not writing this piece for those who’d read and feel offended, flustered. “How dare she pick on how I talk about my kids!” Or: “Well I don’t like kids. That’s just my preference.” (Not even touching this one, today!)

Yeah, yeah. I’m not trying to pick on you. I’m not even writing for you.

I’m writing for the children, teens, and adults, who see these “jokes”, and feel uneasy. If you do, please read on:

The problem with public venting is: children hear it. And it is damaging. There is no question about either of these things.

So then it becomes time for us truly to earn that title of GROWN UP. Because we are grown. We have rights, freedoms, protection under the law, and access to support – at least, far more than children as a class do.

So – are we going to act grown, or not? Is our right to vent more important than the collective self-esteem of our new generation? Does our right to vent trump our responsibility to weigh our words, while we steward this world and show, by example, how best to care for it? Are snark, memes, and barbed anecdotes – about our children or others’ – our only avenues to vent? Is it possible there are ways to get our needs met, that aren’t destructive to others?

Children read this stuff. They see it. Children get the gist. Teenagers especially learn that: we think they’re silly, dramatic, stupid, and annoying. And look – here’s another article proving how “teenage brain” is totally different than – *cough cough inferior to* – the grownup brain. Ouch!

Is it possible for children to fully understand these memes and snark are “just jokes”? Studies say, not so much. Empirical evidence and anecdotes reveal: not so much.

Even as adults: we all have a person or two in our lives, who seems to pick on us, although we can’t absolutely prove it. How does that feel?

Yeah, not too great.

Children are human beings, and they deserve respect – as individuals, and as a class. Our pastors, close and trusted friends, counselors, and the supportive family members who can keep a confidence? These fine personages are who we should vent to.

And when we’ve had enough support from these professionals and loved ones, we can better clarify what, if anything, we need to change. We can speak to our children in a constructive manner. We can dance that special dance – of self-care, while discharging our responsibilities.

It’s never too early, or too late to start.

I’m looking forward to these “Not Back To School” months with my kids in my home. I can truthfully say: these ten plus years of immersion have been the experience of a lifetime. I am so glad I did it, and so glad we continue. I am so glad I took the plunge, even after so many told me it wasn’t possible. That only a certain class of (unambitious, unintelligent, lifeless, and financially-privileged) women could do it, and stay happy.

Nah, son. If you want to do it – you can. Prepare to learn a little – or a lot!

And – I’m here to help.

awake at 6 am but then back to sleep

 
Today as soon as my son woke up, he cried out asking for us to swim together. Very recently it occurred to him we could both swim in the large, “adult” lap pool and he wanted this more than anything, today. Enough that he sprang out of bed, dressed immediately, packed his swim gear, walked the dog, and hopped in the car.

We swam; we dove. Backstroke, breast-stroke, dolphin kick, crawl. He pretended to be a merman. He showed me his many new swimming lesson skills. If he wasn’t under water smiling, he was popping his head up and bubbling words at me faster than I could track. He wanted me to swim with him, “free”. I flipped somersaults and dove to touch the deep end’s floor. I taught him the art of slowly releasing an exhale while submerged. He brought us kickboards and fins. My first time using flippers.

There was only one other person in the entire pool and they left us be. It was just Nels and I for yards of water. A small paradise.

My son is thinking of joining his sister in school (“I will try one day and see if I like it); if he does, I will miss our idyllic days together – years of memories, years slipping by. I know that either or both my children might join school, then quit, then re-join and by no means do I have a plan or agenda. I just also know the kids don’t mourn the passage of time so their changes are experienced in pure joy. Yet this bit of sadness is something I seem to have learned along the way.

Tonight: home cooking – for ourselves, and for friends. Patiently frying chicken in a clean kitchen; baking biscuits. Corn on the cob; country music all lonesome.

My husband has been kind to me. He can tell I am upset, and preoccupied at times, and worn a little thin. A setback here; a friend or two in trouble there. Kidney pains. Mis-steps. And when he puts his arms around me he really means it. He had kind words for me on my sobriety birthday. He has been my companion now for sixteen years. He has seem me through good and ill and I have done the same. This is a very precious thing and grows no less so as days rise and fall.

Tonight he finishes the dishes; I type a few words; my dog Hutch slumbers at my feet which he never fails to do when I am doing any seated work. Our children finish up their own housework efforts and run hot water for their baths.

I light a candle. I am thinking of a friend. I am thinking of our checking account. I am thinking of the summer nights upon us; evenings that stay light, later. I am feeling gladness. I am feeling somber.

I want a heart of Kindness.

i tell it like it is, and the ladies love it

I’m tired, but more to the point I’m sad. I have a grey cloud over my head vis-a-vis my troubles and my temperament is such I get entangled in this ish most nights. I’ve tried talking it out, I’ve tried praying on it, I’ve tried meditating, I’ve tried not thinking. But I’m a mess over it all the same.

But now, I sit on my daughter’s bed and try to be with her for a bit. She’s playing on her brother’s 3DS but she puts it aside to cuddle me a while.

She suddenly remembers she has something for me and fetches it from her bag: her progress report, her grades. I flip through a frankly confusing printout and see all A’s and several classes recording over 100%. I am beginning to suspect she’s top of the class. Kind of incredible to me as kids have so much school- and homework these days and she is completely self-motivated about all of it.

“This looks really good. I’m impressed,” I tell her, flipping the packet back on the bed.

I’m quiet a moment and then I say, “You know by doing so well, you’re doing a favor for future homeschoolers and unschoolers out there.”

“You mean I prove that kids can go to school after unschooling and succeed?”

“Yeah,” I say. “You know a lot of people are afraid to unschool or homeschool their kids,” I tell her.

“That’s okay,” she says. And just when I’m thinking how compassionate and live-and-let-live she is she follows up with:

“They just have to get their shit together.”

She says it in the gentlest tone possible.

Ah… my little Beak.

our dance card

During our new swim session a few of the homeschool parents descend on me at poolside – almost ravenously. It had been a couple years since I connected with the group. Touchingly, even though I have been absent for a while, and I don’t remember their names nor their children’s, a few ask about my daughter. I tell them about Phoenix enrolling in school, and how she’s doing. There is a bit of a flutter as a few of them seem to be deciphering that in some way. One woman says, “You can write on your blog about how you can go from unschooling, to [successful] schooling. Most people I talk to think unschooling won’t work.”

Why YES I CAN! And what a great idea that is! And – you are right! And – thank you for the reminder! I am a little delighted. My brain is all rusty and cobwebby.

I only discovered there was a six-week class an hour before the class, so I’m just glad we made it here on time. I’m not quite ready to publicly interface in a graceful way. I have a pen in my hand and I’m meeting a friend and I’m watching my son in the pool – I’m watching him learn a bit more about proper swimming technique. I’m so glad the sun is shining through the windows and I’m so glad to be here with him.

I am not used to getting invasive questions but today I am not minding much. I am mellow like Ben Murphy. Since I don’t feel I owe anyone an explanation sometimes I just let the questions or assumptions roll over me like water.

And hell sometimes, I think directness (in the form of, “Why are you doing this? Why do you do that?”) can be refreshing. Because let me tell you, I have encountered some weird behaviors in my day. People who hint so many layers deep I know they’re fucking with me but I can’t figure out exactly why. People who aggressively compliment. Can’t figure that one out either. People who, like today, corner me and start telling me very detailed stories about a specific cultural aspect of their home – even though I am sitting with a workbook on my lap and I was busy writing in it when they approached. I am not here to socialize – not today, at least.

Nels is the last out of the pool; it is so warm out I simply wrap him in his towel and hold his clothing under my arm. Home for a bath and then to enjoy the sun. It’s a good day to walk this Earth.

i know it will probably work out because she’s sassy AF

In the process of enrolling my “unschooled” child into public school, we have ended up speaking with several individuals for input or, in some cases, necessary arrangements. These individuals include staff and faculty from school districts, some teachers (and ex-teachers), a homeschool email list (in this case, the “traditional”/curriculum type of homeschooling), and of course friends and relatives.

I am continually re-reminded that we Hogabooms swim in a different sea when it comes to some big life concepts, like How Children Learn, or just How Children Work in general (spoiler alert: they work a lot like regular people, except usually more honest!). Plenty of people who (obviously) love children very much, their own and others, will flat-out speak what I consider startling un-truths about children. Like how learning to mind authority and follow direction is equivalent to real learning as well as the moral prime directive of handling the kid problem. You know, LITTLE issues like that [she laughs]. I’m also reminded even a lengthy civil discussion (or two or three!) can’t possibly inject Ralph and my worldview and experiences into other individuals – and today I know it is rude and futile for me to try this. The child-as-second-class-citizen schema runs so deep that it takes months or even years to significantly de-program (hello! I’m still working on it!) – and I am coming to believe people would have to truly live the experience for a significant amount of time to speak with any real authority about it.

In Phoenix’s case, we have had many suggestions in the past few weeks: suggestions of how to organize her wardrobe, her curriculum, her food and lunch experience, how to test her, where to “place” her, how to “place” her. Every suggestion has been directed at me or my husband – patently ignoring the fact this entire world is hers, ignoring this even when we’ve said so directly and out loud, even while she’s in the room or available via email et cetera. In many cases, disturbingly but not surprisingly, my daughter is talked about like she’s chattel.

My daughter’s reaction to this makes me fall over dead with admiration. She leans back and tunes out. If she’s not being spoken to, a fine and friendly fuck all y’all. She’s not here to mess with anyone but she’s also not here to play “Good Girl”. She is like the best Buddhist I’ve met.

She is amazing.

Now I am used to adults’ baffling oversight – given that’s how many people treat most kids – but just to inform you how profound it really is, this happens over and over even when Ralph and I have demonstrated for years that this is not how our family operates. I am re-reminded of something I’d forgotten: that many grownups literally do not know how to talk about a child without knowing their grade and their so-called “aptitudes” or without considering grownups “owners” of children (as opposed to guardians or nurturers). And when it comes to these evaluations, I’m not talking about the logical surveying of a handful of factors in order to file a child into a classroom, which makes sense in light of the system – I mean that many adults cannot relate to a child without first “knowing” this information.

It is the oddest thing.

I know I sound feisty. I’m not angry, I’m just continually surprised at what I should no longer be surprised about. In a way, it still saddens me a bit. While today I have made peace with the mostly-schooling world (although that majority keeps shrinking), I think often of the neophyte home- or unschooler – as I once was! – so ill-supported or even vilified by so many. I think of this new family and how much anxiety is often produced by these clashing concepts of human relationships (cf. my handful of very angsty blog posts a few years back). No wonder people frantically self-affix labels – like “whole life unschooling” or “radical unschooling” or “interest-led learning” or “autodidactic unschooling” or even “un-unschooling”. Part of the label-grabbing motive is to defend one’s choice to raise one’s own child in the way seen fit: “Please trust us, we have a plan for our kids”; others may, as I did, be passionately trumpeting: “No. This is different. Different than (practically) everything you’ve been raised to believe!” (I’m still trumpeting that… or clown-horning that, if that’s how you see it.)

We’ve “unschooled” long enough to move past that particular label being useful – it merely serves as a shorthand that I employ when it makes sense.

Now I’m at the end of a day, and still recuperating from surgery, so I’m too tired to eloquently defend a premise I believe in: that nearly all labels, given time, will morph from being useful, to being impediments. Labels are fine, but a fanatic and stubborn adherence to them can keep us from practicing compassion, from practicing humility, and from helping others who are struggling.

Yes, our unschooling experience is valuable, and there is no substitute for it. Theory isn’t the same as living it. I have that life experience to offer – and I do. My blessings and support to any on the path.

Predictably, I’m about six hundred words into a three-hundred word post. I apologize. Let me get to more relevant points:

A few weeks ago I feared the biases my daughter might face from the teachers, adults, and children she’d be spending the day with. But I have worked through those fears (so far!) because I have re-reminded myself that it’s not my job to make people see things the way we do – and, more importantly, that Phoenix can handle this. Our children are whole, and that is what will help them. Our children are intelligent, kind, empathetic, strong, full of humor and compassion, and authentic.

We are here to support them, one hundred percent.

They also have something many children don’t have: a choice.

They have a choice. You know, sometimes I forget how amazing that really is? We’ve worked our asses off to give our children a choice and I’m grateful for the many factors, and all the kinds of support, that have made this possible. My goal in being out as a non-schooling family is to show people: I’m here, we’re here to help, if you ever want to try something even a little bit different.

These days I do not write to offend, or write to defend. I write here with passion. If there is any one else out there that wants to jump off the diving board, I’m here cheering from the cool deep water.

Well, let me torture the analogy a bit. Now? I’m waiting on the bleachers, watching my daughter jump, yet again. She is a beautiful sight.

celebrating life and possibility

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Once I saw a couple awesomesauce photographers at the Sauvie Island wedding locale, I gave myself permission to stop taking pictures and trust that, later, wonderful pictures would come to me. This accounts for the kind of inexcusable lapse in that I don’t have a single picture of the couple (or of my own husband, sister, or mother!) to offer you, this evening. Still, I stand by my choice to be in the experience, instead of recording it.  If you don’t know the kind of intense energy that goes into a wedding, at least when you are family or involved in a major way, then – pssshhhfft. I’ll post more photos when they come around.

So, Portland then.

In the house we stayed at, Ralph told me he intended to treat me “like a Queen” all weekend – and he did. Strawberry pancakes, at my request:

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Almost better than devouring them (while reading a junky noir novel!) was watching my daughter eat them. Delicious!

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Getting ready for fancy shin-diggery. The kids’ togs are all silk and cotton – a silk/cotton blend for the suits, a very fine cotton for each shirt, and silk taffeta for the bowties.

Yes, I made bowties. Yes, it was awesome. And kind of tricky. Bowties, if you want to make real ones, you have to make the exact correct length for the neck. I am now all fired up and ready to make Ralph a few vests and bowties because he looked gooooood. My brother said my entire family was “sharp as a diamond tack.”

Reader, I wore not one but two outfits, changing before the reception. No pictures yet of my get-up, although I offer you my custom-ordered boutonniere, a little nicety I purchased along with a wrist corsage for the mother of the groom.

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Wedding gifts: Ralph and I made Jamila a steampunk travelling hat, complete with goggles, lace netting, and homemade wired ribbon and multi-loop bow:
Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Phee models, after her wedding-morning bath:

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

My brother, I made an overdyed wool vest. Prick-stitched lining, bound buttonholes, brass buttons, and a secret charm sewn into the pocket. Shhhh!

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

The back belt:

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

We also bought them a two-night trip to Sol Duc hot springs!

Billy And Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

The wedding was super-lovely and worth every bit of effort it took our family to get there, and get there in style.

Billy & Jamila's Wedding, 06/22/2013

Hm, how much do I love this picture? My brother, the groom, looking handsome and happy. Tony checking something in his hand – the ring? His phone? And Chris, marching like a goddamn champion, gripping a bottle of wine. Fuck YEAH.

And yeah I got teary-eyed at the wedding. Of course I did, what the hell is wrong with you?

***

So we had a lovely time, all in all. I got to see my friend B. and her wonderful family, and thanks to some donations from two online friends, we got to hit the Mummies this afternoon, and visit with my sister. This morning I wrote a piece for Underbellie, in large part sparked by gratitude for the blessing of friends and family who, perhaps unwittingly, continue to challenge me in my day-to-day life.

Oh, and this was the first time I went two nights without my dog, since we got him almost a year ago. I MISSED HIM and I think HE MISSED ME, but now we are reunited.

Won’t buy bacon, hominy or grits / Rodent ears and possum is all we get!

As of this afternoon the Taylors are installed in the Life is Good Unschooling Conference (pre- and post-conference interviews, coming soon!). We had a small kerfuffle while our designated family tried to check in today – but that was, thankfully, resolved. I am hoping they navigate the considerable and constant activity at their first Conference with aplomb, and have a wonderful time.

Today was quite busy. I had a last-minute mailout of several items, the typical errands and child- and home- and pet-business, plus a dead battery in the car I was borrowing and then the understated drama of getting a replacement driver’s license (mine recently and mysteriously went missing). This evening I biked to and from Aberdeen and had a wonderful time practicing mindfulness, even through the pain of the ride. I am still getting used to my bike, which is quite speedy and lovely, but requires a lot more upper-body work than my previous craft.

I am also recovering from urethritis (I know, right? WTF), a somewhat alarming and not-so-fun experience for which I sought medical attention yesterday. Even though I have never (to my knowledge) had this problem before, my GP thought it was quite far-fetched it could result from the intense pressure of a new (hard and unpleasant) bike saddle and an entirely new bike-stance. But me and my pubic bone think differently, and I now have the giggles thinking of an old childhood tune and replacing the word “fox” with the word “crotch.”*

 
Tomorrow: payday. I’m very grateful to be warm, safe, loved, and more or less intact – and to have my family along with me on my life’s journies.

* tender-bits soreness is bad enough, but of course, it could be a heck of a lot worse!

updates from the incorporated village of Cutetown

First, here’s a picture of Nels, being so sweet I want to bite him. He likes to have the “towel hat” made for him, you know how fancy ladies don after their ablutions.

Nels, Post-Bath

Secondly: in just a few days we’re sending the Taylor family to the Life is Good Unschooling Conference. They are registered and ready to go!

I want to first thank those who’ve donated, shared, or in any way supported our endeavor. Financially, we have had six donors so far put in a total of $290 – and we estimate our scholarship cost, when paid out in full, will be about $700.

The scholarship process has been a positive one. I am very grateful we chose to do this, even though it meant forfeiting our own trip to the Conference. I am especially grateful for my very generous children, who were willing to make that sacrifice if the scholarship was not donor-funded in full. And this year, I am pleased to be sending unschooling “newbies” to the Conference. I think the experience will help them a great deal as they embark on this journey!

We are still taking donations. If you are interested in helping, please share, tweet, post on Facebook, or Paypal kelly AT hogaboom DOT org. Any small – or large – donation helps!

Thank you so much.

Nels, Post-Bath

“Oh, it was a banner f*cking year at the old Hogaboom family!”

This morning my children, husband, mother and I, as well as my kids’ friend A., hit the road and headed to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium as day ONE of our daughter’s BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZAAAAAAAAAaaA

Tiger Cub, Snack

Tiger cub does BLUE STEEL —

***

OK then. I took a billion pictures of the red wolves – because I love wolves so much. They are spookily beautiful. Pictures can’t capture it. But maybe this stretch will translate pretty well:

Wolves

Wolves

The wolves really do move around in an eerily-coordinated pack; they grapple but silently.

Wolves

Feeding stinky waterfowl; many were shy about getting a tasty fish:

Dinner For Waterfowl

Dancing Shrimp! You are looking at their tails, here. They were shy and would not turn around, but they did have a coordinated dance going on. They were less than an inch long. Beautiful.

Dancing Shrimp!

A spooky octopus. No way to get a good photo; I just enjoyed her as she moved about.

Spooky Octopus

A handsome goat that kind of reminds me of Jasmine’s dubstep boyfriend. I refused to take a photo of the even-greedier goat to the left.

Handsome Goat

The arctic fox. Ralph and I have a great little story about this fella but it’s probably only funny to us. Anyway, my mom was so excited by his cuteness. She laughed and clapped and turned around to smile at Ralph and I as we walked toward her on the trail and I said to him, “the littlest grandma.”

The Arctic Fox

“‘Sup, we’re gibbons. DEAL WITH IT.”

Sup, Bitches

Children in the bamboo, being lovely. Nels:

Nels In The Bamboo

A.:

A.

Phoenix:

Phee In The Bamboo

Peacocking! These peacocks were shady as fuck. Like one creeped a single mama out to her car and stood there watching her and I think she felt a bit weird about it.

Peacocking!

Nels took many photos and texted them to his friend D.’s mama. So, there’s that.

Nels Sent Many Photos To His Friend D. Today

Tiger cub, playing! This was rather touching. You could see this fellow really loved the little feline. “Little”, a six month tiger cub about sixty-five pounds of muscle and hungry potentiality. Very powerful to watch, even as a baby.

"Play", Or, Practice

The two of them kept playing (the guy was like, “I’ve got a tiger, you don’t, so I’m awesome”) but I noticed the tiger would crawl up on the stump behind his human playmate, then jump on his neck and gnaw on it. This is how most tiger attacks go down – from behind, at the neck. And the VAST majority of tiger attacks are successful – for the tiger. (Here are some tiger attack tips! Also, LOLOLO). So anyway it was cute this guy thought the tiger was “playing” but it was actually, “practicing how to kill and eat him.”

***

This is E.T. the walrus. He is 3300 pounds of sass, and he likes to play with his massive walrus-dick (oosik represent!). While we were watching him he did this magnificent half-somersault, except instead of completing it it grappled his own business and whiskerly-chewed on it.

E.T. The Walrus

A photo on the steps; the kids talk about E.T.’s “trick” somersault, because my mom kept calling it a “trick” delightedly as she hadn’t caught the naughty bit of it until the kids finally detailed her a bit.

Friends @ The Zoo

Two siamangs cuddle after eating bananas. I gotta admit, it is satisfying to watch monkeys eat bananas. And it’s sweet to watch monkeys cuddle. And it’s sad to see monkeys in enclosures.

Siamangs

The touch tanks. Today was kind of special. I got to see the very moment a docent talked my son into touching an anenome; and he did. I got to watch him go from fear, to wonder. It was pretty cool.

Kids At The Touch Tank

Nels, staring down a nurse shark.

Nels + Nurse Shark

After our lengthy stay at the zoo, we traveled to pho, had coffee and doughnuts at the Krispy Kreme (the kids enjoyed watching them make the doughnuts and spent several minutes enthralled), and then I shambled my various coupons into Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Craft for some sewing supplies (I am not much of a coupon-er but FABRIC COUPONS are an organizing principle of my life).

Today was a good day: day one of three of Phee’s birthday. Tomorrow we have some more awesomesauce. We Hogabooms go hard, it must be admitted.

the air that I breathe & to love you

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

Caught In The Act

The sun is out and there’s something about the air; it’s still got a bit of chill especially as the evening falls but I find I’m feeling restless for the summer. We’re down to one car and we’d better fix a few things on that or we’ll be down to zero (sorry to talk about the cars again; it’s just where we live, family-of-four life without a car is no joke). I turn the engine over and the Mercedes belches out grey smoke and coughs for a while while it warms up. This car. The missing muffler and the screaming belt. I am serious. It’s funny. Sorry neighbors. I still love it, though.

It’s the sunshine and the car trouble so I say something out loud before I’ve thought it through, I don’t know if we’ll get a vacation this year, and I’m okay with it, just thinking of hot sand and doing nowt and just picturing the little pots of money moving them back and forth, more than enough to feed us and shelter us so no worries. But:

“It will be worth it,” my daughter says. “We’ll have sent a family to the unschooling conference.” That’s cool. It’s like as a parent you make these decisions as best you can, and you bet we made this decision as a family, informed consent, but it’s cool the kids aren’t backing down even while I’m teetering on feeling like an ass.

She continues: “They’ll have a wonderful time.”

I say, “We had sixteen families apply for our scholarship. They are all great applicants. Would you like daddy and I to make the final decision, or would you like to help?”

“Oh, I’d love to help!” Her response is immediate. We talk about it a bit. We share ideas about criteria for selection. I put the car in gear and we head out to take her to swim team. My son puts his hand on my arm and tells me he loves me.

***

Later, Ralph’s out of town, I walk in the falling shroud of darkness, wet and cold, I’m with the dog, off a little over a mile to pick up my daughter. In the backpack I’ve a couple rolls for her to eat, a big woolen hat and a coat. Hutch trots at my side, HAPPIER THAN ANYTHING EVER just to be along with me. Even after his massive weight loss he is still a big dog, and despite his obviously friendly, mild body language, sometimes people cross the street when they see him. In fact, walking at night alone as a lady, I don’t mind having a huge dog alongside. He is the gentlest creature ever though and I have no idea how much he’d protect me if I were accosted, that is unless my assailant was a giant hot dog.

Over the bridge and across the deep, dark river, which fills me with terror. I love the evenings, people hurrying home or perhaps off to parties or out of town. I’m alone but others are awake. I’m wrapped in a big scarf and my plastic jacket. My body feels good and my mind does as well. Every day as my last drink recedes from me, further away, I am profoundly aware of my gift of sobriety. I hate to talk about that so much too but, it’s on my mind and in my heart, often and daily. Every day I work with people and I see how many don’t keep a continuous sobriety, and heck those are the ones even trying to get help, “tip of the iceberg” doesn’t cut it. Every day I know less and less about Why for all of it. There’s nothing that sets me apart as being so fortunate but I am and so I don’t piss it away by being ungrateful or unconscious.

“If you don’t drink today, you’ll never drink again.” I heard this today. I tell my husband. He doesn’t quite understand. I explain it a little but it’s okay if people don’t understand. I understand.

My daughter is pleased to see us. She is out of the locker room at one minute past seven; she is on time. We both thank one another for being punctual. She bites the first roll and then tears off a chunk for the dog; he CLOPS it up and then CLOPS, CLOPS in gratitude or beseechment or both. We travel to the store by foot and buy two bananas to fulfill requirements for a loaf of banana bread; we have two quarters and the sum total is 49 cents and I’m pleased. Later Nels will eat the bananas without asking about them first, then he apologizes. For all his devilry he takes it very seriously when he makes a mistake or inconveniences others, probably too seriously. And so I’ll send Ralph to the store to get some more bananas tomorrow, so he can bake a quickbread for our daughter before she gets up.